Allen Park — The Detroit Lions are buying into Jalen Hurts hype — because, well, they have no choice.
Many around the league are expecting big things for the third-year Eagles quarterback. It remains to be seen whether he’s the guy to take Philadelphia to the next step, but the Lions don’t have the luxury of waiting to find out.
Besides, the Lions already found out what Hurts and the Eagles’ offense is capable of in last year’s 44-6 loss at Ford Field. With wide receiver A.J. Brown joining the Eagles this past offseason, Hurts’ opportunity to create within the offense has only grown since Week 8 of last season.
“A mobile quarterback in the NFL, it adds an extra gap in the run game and it makes you have to be on your P’s and Q’s in the pass game, so it’s very dangerous,” linebacker Alex Anzalone said Thursday. “… You have to be on top of the run game because they ran for all those yards on us last year, but at the same time, we gotta be ready to defend the pass.”
Hurts was taken by the Eagles 53rd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. He didn’t play much his rookie year, but led Philadelphia to an 8-7 record a season ago in 15 starts. He completed 61.3% of his passes, threw 16 touchdowns to nine interceptions, threw for 3,144 yards and averaged 52.3 rushing yards per game.
When Lions safeties coach Brian Duker was asked this week about whether it’s good to see a mobile quarterback early, he joked that he’d “love to not see” a mobile quarterback all year. But it’s clear that the Lions’ coaching staff finds shutting down Hurts to be a very serious issue.
“This guy’s a really good player,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of Hurts. “I think he had the most rushing yards — I could be mistaken — out of any quarterback (last year). I know he had probably the most rushing touchdowns, so that’s something that we have to account for. And we have things in our system to be able to account for that. At some point, there’s going to be a one-on-one play, and our guys have to get him down.”
There are always plenty of variables heading into Week 1, but with Brown now in the mix after a trade this past offseason, the Eagles’ offense is especially unpredictable this time around.
“A little bit we’re kind of guessing at this point, to be honest with you, because they only really had one series with him in the preseason, right?” Duker said. “We don’t have a good example of what they’re gonna look like with him in there, so that’s kind of one of the things, going into Week 1, that’s still a question mark out there.”
Glenn echoed that sentiment, calling Brown “another good player that’s got to be accounted for.” But simply talking about the addition of Brown, who’s averaged 69.7 yards per game through his first three NFL seasons, is seemingly burying the lede on all of the other weapons that Hurts has at his disposal.
Don’t forget about Devonta Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner who was taken 10th overall in the 2021 draft, or fourth-year running back Miles Sanders, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry over 12 games a season ago, or Dallas Goedert, whose 14.8 yards per reception last season ranked second amongst NFL tight ends.
“This quarterback certainly is a threat and if you allow him to get comfortable into what they do offensively, then it’s an issue,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said. “And then you add on top of that the perimeter with these two receivers, I mean it’s — and Goedert in the middle. I mean, they pose a threat. I mean, they do. They’ve got plenty of weapons. They’ve got plenty of talent.
“So we’ve got to be on it, man. We’ve got to be on all the little details as it pertains to this gameplan to beat this team.”